Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined U.S. Representative Sam Farr, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz and other local officials to celebrate the elevation of Pinnacles National Monument to become Pinnacles National Park, joining iconic sites such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone as the country's 59th national park.
"What President Theodore Roosevelt began with a stroke of his pen when he created Pinnacles National Monument in 1908, President Obama last month completed by signing legislation sponsored by Representative Sam Farr and Senator Barbara Boxer to designate this extraordinary landscape as a national park," Salazar said. "Like other national parks across our country, Pinnacles not only takes visitors' breath away with its natural beauty but it also provides opportunities for outdoor recreation and supports economic growth and jobs in the local community."
With its close proximity to San Francisco and other major cities, Pinnacles last year welcomed more than 343,000 visitors who spent $4.8 million and supported 48 jobs in the local economy, Salazar noted.
"Visitors have long been drawn to our region's beautiful coast," said Representative Farr. "With the new designation as Pinnacles National Park, they will now want to come visit our magnificent cliffs. Pinnacles was the missing book in the National Park's library but today this geological and ecological wonder takes its rightful place on the shelf next to our nation's other great parks."
"I am so proud that we are officially welcoming Pinnacles as California's ninth National Park," Senator Boxer said. "By elevating Pinnacles to a National Park, we are saying that this is one of the most special places in America. Californians have long enjoyed its spectacular rock formations and diverse wildlife, but this designation will ensure that Pinnacles gets the national attention it deserves."
Located near the San Andreas Fault in the Gabilan Mountains east of central California's Salinas Valley, Pinnacles is an excellent example of tectonic plate movement. The Pinnacles Rocks are believed to be part of the Neenach Volcano that occurred 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, California, some 195 miles southeast. The San Andreas Fault split the volcano and the Pacific Plate crept north, carrying the Pinnacles.
The park encompasses 27,000 acres of diverse wild lands including massive monoliths, spires, cave passages and canyons, the result of millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. Its rock formations attract climbers of all skill levels, and visitors marvel at its annual tapestry of spring wildlife flowers and more than 400 species of native bees.
The park also provides habitat for 31 endangered California condors. Since 2003, the park has been a partner of the California Condor Recovery Program and provides one of three condor release sites in the country.
"Pinnacles National Monument has long been a shining example of California's unique ecosystem, geology and unrivaled beauty," said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. "With this dedication as California's ninth national park, Pinnacles is taking its rightful place as one of America's most treasured wild places."
In January, President Obama signed the The Pinnacles National Park Act, recognizing the broader significance of park resources, specifically the chaparral, grasslands, blue oak woodlands, and majestic valley oak savanna ecosystems of the area, the area's geomorphology, riparian watersheds, unique flora and fauna, and the ancestral and cultural history of native Americans, settlers and explorers.
The designation of Pinnacles National Park did not change the park's management since it is already part of the 398-unit National Park System.
"Pinnacles is a remarkable place, and we're glad to see its amazing resources have been recognized as worthy of the designation as a national park," said National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. "The National Park Service will continue to ensure that those resources remain unimpaired for all to enjoy."
In addition to changing the park's status from national monument to national park, the legislation names the park's 16,000 acres of wilderness as the Hain Wilderness, honoring Schuyler Hain who was an 1891 homesteader from Michigan. Within 20 years, Hain became known as the "Father of Pinnacles," leading tours up through Bear Valley and into the caves. Hain spoke to groups and wrote articles urging preservation of the area and acted as unofficial caretaker for many years. His efforts proved fruitful with the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2,500-acre national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.